Merlin may not seem like a subject of serious historical enquiry but a study of his character and prophecies can tell us quite a lot about the time in which the figure as we know him was created. Merlin is not just a prominent figure in the modern imagination of what the medieval world was like he was also a very popular subject for medieval writers and audiences themselves and in many cases his character and the content of his prophecies were taken very seriously. This is particularly the case in the 12th century when the first fully developed stories of Merlin began circulating widely and what we can see from the contemporary reaction to his prophecies is that medieval writers viewed them as an important part of their understanding of the world around them.
In a podcast for the History Hub.ie podcast series Jennifer Farrell (UCD) looks at the prophecies of Merlin.
Jennifer Farrell’s research is funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Merlin and his Prophecies:
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Image: Detail of Merlin dictating his prophecies to his scribe, Blaise; French 13th century minature from Robert de Boron’s Merlin en prose (written ca 1200). (Manuscript illustration, c.1300.). Scan from “Brockhaus Geschichtslexikon, vol. 2, Mittelalterliche Welt und frühe Neuzeit”, article “Geoffrey of Monmouth”. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons